Whether you realize it yet or not, choosing your wedding photographer is a very personal choice. Staunton is full of talented wedding photographers, and our style, approach, perspective, and demeanor are all a little different. You might have read lists from wedding planning magazines and blogs entitled “20 questions to ask your photographer before you book,” or something like that. I’m here to tell you they all miss the mark. They all focus on logistical things like must-have shots, what’s included, what the contract says. These things are important, yes. But they really don’t tell you how to find a great photographer, connect with the right photographer, or make sure you’re confident in your choice.
The thing is, there are probably a handful of photographers in your town who shoot a similar style, have an eight hour package with a second shooter and engagement session, deliver wedding galleries within 3-5 weeks, and may even use the same equipment and data backup services. But, while they offer the same service, they do not offer the same experience. Because of the personal nature of wedding photography, no two photographers or companies can provide the same experience. If you ask them that cookie-cutter list of surface level questions, you’re going to find out if they’re professional and experienced, but not if they’re right for you.
So what things do you really consider when choosing your wedding photographer?
While some vendors may be in and out of your wedding day without much interaction with you, your planners, photographers, and videographers are there for the majority of the day. We’re side by side with you, witnessing your joy, your nerves, your family’s stories and legacy. We will probably spend more time with you on that day than your future spouse. On a wedding day, I do a fair amount of straightening dresses, blotting away mascara smudges, pinning boutonnieres, and behind the scenes work to make sure your day is running smoothly. It’s the approach to this unseen part of the day that will make the biggest difference in your experience.
Connection and personality are some of the most important factors in choosing your wedding photographer.
Both your photographs and your memories will be impacted by how your photographer manages the day between the shutter clicks. By being present in the room, we photographers naturally shift the mood a little bit. People straighten up a little, emotions aren’t quite as raw, and people can appear a little more stiff and put-together. This makes capturing the organic moments and authentic emotion of a couple and their family on this sweet day a little challenging.
Between the posed portraits are the moments you truly don’t want to forget. The ability to connect with people and make them feel at ease in front of your lens is essential for a wedding photographer. This allows us to capture the familial exchanges, meaningful glances, and events that transpire on a wedding day with authenticity–truly telling the story of your wedding. Building this connection is going to look different with different couples. It all comes down to personality and connection.
Personality of your photographers impacts your wedding day
Despite being a completely capable photographer, if there’s a glaring personality conflict, that discomfort is going to seep into your wedding portraits and impact the photographer’s ability to make you feel comfortable. Likewise, if your photographer has taken the time to get to know you before booking, blends in well with your wedding party, and your personalities get along wonderfully, your wedding images are going to reflect the joyful day more fully.
This is a lot to consider when you’re choosing a wedding photographer. I try to take some of that work out of the process for you. When couples inquire with me, I ask them to answer a few questions to see if we’re a “good fit.” I’m not trying to pick and choose my clients. But if someone hires me, I want to be 100% sure I’m only going to add positivity to their wedding day. I am sentimental, fairly introverted and subdued, very organized and Type-A. For some couples, these qualities make me a great asset to their wedding day. For others, it kills the vibe, so to speak. By taking the time to get to know couples during our consultation and even engagement session, I can better ensure I’m the right photographer to serve them on their wedding day.
How can you tell that a photographer is the right fit before you book?
Treat your consultation more like an informal interview than a Q/A call. Try to ask important questions about their approach to wedding photography. Choosing a wedding photographer is like choosing a backup bridesmaid. No, really! Ask questions that give you a feel for who they are, and try to imagine them with your friends and family during your wedding. Instead of asking how many photos they deliver, ask them what their favorite part of a wedding day is. You might ask them why they chose wedding photography over other photography specialties. Ask to hear some of their favorite stories from weddings they’ve worked. And most importantly, ask what their client experience is like. Their answer will tell you what past clients have valued most about working with them. If the things they mention are not important or appealing to you, it’s probably best to interview some other photographers.
More generically, you can ask about their approach to wedding photography. They might talk about their posing and lighting, or the photo editing. Or, they might talk about connection and capturing authentic moments. Hopefully they mention some things about how they prepare for a wedding day and work with you to create a wonderful and stress-free experience. Whatever their answer, it will give you a window into how they view their job as a wedding photographer.
The story of an introvert and an extrovert: two Staunton wedding photographers
I want to introduce you guys to my friend Amanda. In many ways, she’s a lot like me. We grew up in Augusta County, have loved wedding photography from a young age, and have a light, bright, and romantic style. We both prefer prompting over posing, showing connection and authentic emotion in our photography. There’s so many similarities! We have preschool aged sons, played sports in high school, went to college for marketing and design, started our businesses at the same time, and even both have ADHD. When it comes to our business, we offer similar packages, have comparable technical skills, and shoot similarly, with a slightly different editing style.
What Amanda brings to a wedding day
Amanda is the energy in the room. If you are looking for a photographer who enters the getting ready suite and drops everything to tell you how amazing your makeup looks, how incredibly excited she is for this day, and how special it is to her that you chose her to capture it all… Amanda is your girl. She will hype you up, and she will bend over backwards to make sure your day is awesome. As an extrovert, she’s never met a stranger. She knows how to direct a bridal party efficiently, and still keep the fun energy going. I guarantee she will get some genuine laughs out of you guys for your wedding portraits. There are so many more things about her personality that make her an excellent wedding photographer!
What makes me different
I am her opposite. I am introverted, subdued, and try to be a fly on the wall during a wedding day. Remembering how I felt on my own wedding day, I do subtle things throughout the day to make sure you get more alone time with your new spouse, remember to eat, etc. Before the wedding, I try to connect with the parents and siblings of the couple so that I know what moments and relationships are most meaningful, and can rely on their help for family portrait organization.
I’m not quiet on a wedding day because I’m not just as thrilled as Amanda is to be there and do this incredibly important job for you. Trust me, I am SO invested. I’m probably going to tear up when you take the dance floor for your father daughter dance. I notice the quiver of your voice during your vows. It’s not lost on me that this is the very first day of your new family’s legacy. I am honored to be there.
The takeaway here: Finding the right photographer for your wedding day.
Amanda and I have both talked about how you can tell when your energy is off putting to someone. It’s harder to create images that show the joy of the day when your presence changes the mood. Our businesses and skills are similar, but we are oh so different. This makes us the best photographer for a different kind of couple. We are uniquely suited to serve people in our own personal style.
If you’re interviewing a photographer, and it’s just not the right personality fit, it’s totally okay to say that. In fact, I want to know! I never want to pressure someone into choosing me as their wedding photographer when it’s just not right. Being honest about how you feel will save us both some uncomfortable moments in the future. I can reopen your wedding date to other couples who are a better fit, and I know some pretty talented people in the industry who can be of better service to you! I love referring my photographer friends, truly. My goal with each inquiry is to make sure they are served well on their wedding day, whether or not I’m the one they book. People come before income–always have, and always will.
Wondering whether I’m the right photographer for you?
If you’re reading this and were considering me for your own wedding, first–thanks! I’m glad you’re here! Secondly, the best way to chat through your vision for your wedding day and how I can serve you is through a call. Email me to set up a consultation so I can answer all your questions and concerns. Learn more about my approach to weddings.
In general, here are some things about the couples I serve best:
- Their wedding plans revolve around special traditions, family moments, and spending time with guests more so than elaborate decor and wedding trends
- Besides their newlywed portraits, they are most excited for photos of special dances, toasts, and moments between family and friends
- Their love languages are typically quality time, acts of service, and words of affirmation
- They are service-oriented people, usually holding jobs in education, healthcare, social work, hospitality, nonprofits, or childcare
- Tucked away in their nightstands are mementos and notes from early in the relationship, and keepsakes from family and friends
- While they are generally laid back, they do want to have a detailed plan for the wedding day to help things go smoothly
- They prefer candid, emotive, relaxed, romantic images over more posed portraits where everyone is looking directly at the camera. (This doesn’t mean we won’t take both!)
- Framed pictures hang in the halls of their homes
- They are typically the type to prefer a quiet getaway to the mountains, beach, a tropical vacation or foreign historic city rather than sightseeing in a bustling city
- They would rather give a gift that’s personal or handmade than something expensive and designer
- My brides are typically quieter people, usually known as the “group mom” among their friends
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Jo Mahaney is a professional photographer of PhotographyByJo.net based in Staunton, Virginia, specializing in wedding photography. With over eight years of experience, Jo is dedicated to creating effortless, joyful imagery that authentically captures the essence of each couple’s unique love story. She is known for her ability to create meaningful galleries filled with emotion and personal narratives. Jo is not just a photographer; she is an active supporter of her clients, providing resources and guidance to ensure a stress-free experience. From the initial inquiry call to the wedding day, Jo is transparent, open, and ready to get to know her clients to provide the best service possible. Her commitment to her craft and her clients is evident in the glowing testimonials she has received. Jo’s work extends beyond Staunton, covering areas such as Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Lexington, Roanoke, and Richmond. She has also had the privilege of photographing weddings in various locations, including the Outerbanks, DC, Maryland, Pennsylvania, North and South Carolina, and even Spain.